Thursday, March 15, 2018

Bless Your Children

Every child is a blessing.  When a child enters our life, we are changed forever.  Our hearts swell with a love so deep and pure that it cannot be described, only felt.   We put our children before ourselves;  our needs become secondary.   We become better people, more patient, generous, kind and strong, because we want to be the best we can be for them, to model the kind of person we want them to grow to be. Children let us touch the future.  They are our connection to immortality.

When we are blessed with children, we become partners in parenting with G-d, everyone's Father.  We look to Him for guidance in the awesome responsibility and privilege of nurturing a soul. Even those of us who don't believe in G-d recognize that every life is a miracle. All parents harbor hopes for their children's well-being.  Those hopes may be directed at life in general or the universe at large, but to me they express a spiritual association.

There's a beautiful Jewish custom to bless our children every Friday night, just as we begin Shabbat.  Typically, the father places his hands on each child's head and recites a prescribed blessing, one for girls and one for boys.  This blessing pleads with G-d to bless the child and watch over him or her, in the same way that we ourselves hope to nurture and watch over our children.  The Hebrew word for blessing is bracha, which implies multiplicity.  As parents, our job is to build our children up, to increase their strengths and help them grow physically, mentally, and emotionally.   At the same time, we try to protect our children, to keep them away from harm.  We discipline them with limits so that they can grow safely and healthfully.  

Blessing our children can take many forms, and does not need to be a ritual to be effective.  Our intention is to communicate love for our children and faith that they have what they need to blossom and thrive in this world.  It's important for children to know that they are beloved and protected by both parents and G-d.  My maternal grandfather, Salvatore Bonanno, was a deeply religious man.  He converted from Catholicism to the Pentacostal religion after my mother and her brothers were grown.  He became a deacon of his church, gave lots of charity, and prayed several times a day.  One day he was sitting in a chair and called me over to him.  He put his arm around me and In his broken English he asked, "Georgia, who is more important, your father on earth or your Father in heaven?".  I had been attending catechism classes; plus I knew my grandfather very well, so of course I answered, "My Father in heaven".  He was very pleased with me and made me feel that I was blessed; that I was completely surrounded by love and protection.  

Our children are not ours to keep (as hard as that is!).  While they are still in our care, we can treasure the blessings they bring us and in turn, make sure they feel blessed as well.

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